EVERY reception child in Sandwell will get free library membership after reading project Booktastic was launched at Blackheath Library.

Booktastic, which began three years ago, has seen record numbers of young children visiting libraries to borrow books.

The increase has been put down to the success of Booktastic scheme which hands library cards to reception age children in schools.

Each reception child is given a special Booktastic membership pack, including a membership card, folder and information about the library service. There is also special Booktastic Missions for children to complete and earn stickers.

Booktastic has meant libraries in Sandwell have seen unprecedented numbers of books being borrowed by young children. In the last school year nearly 9,000 books were issued as part of Booktastic to 4, 5 and 6 year olds.

The scheme is the brainchild of Councillor Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children’s services, to increase the number of children visiting libraries and borrowing and reading more books.

He said: "I'm thrilled this campaign is having the impact we want it to and I'm committed to continuing with Booktastic this year.

"There are now more four, five and six year olds using Sandwell libraries since our records began."

He added: "Not only are the children becoming members of the library but they are also returning to borrow books.

"It's important to get young children to read for pleasure as this is proven to increase literacy levels and improve achievements at school.”

Children from Highfields Primary School, Rowley Regis were at the launch which included a performance by The Story Players.

This year's scheme will be sponsored by Black Country Housing who has pledged £3,000 to support Booktastic.

Janette Beckett, director of care and social business at Black Country Housing, said: “I am very proud Black Country Housing are now sponsoring Booktastic.

"We know how important it is for children to start reading from an early age and it’s great we can be a part of this fantastic scheme."